WICAS warns of a coming financial ‘perfect storm’

The Western Isles Citizens Advice Bureau has warned of a coming financial “perfect storm” for thousands of individuals who stand to lose out from a combination of changing legislation and economic conditions.

By Murray MacLeod
Friday, 8th October 2021, 10:26 am
Angus MacNeil: Wrong to leave so many families in financial stress
Angus MacNeil: Wrong to leave so many families in financial stress

The organisation cited three main elements which when brought together will conspire to create major problems for families and individuals, particularly those already on the breadline. They are: the end of the furlough scheme, rising energy bills and a cut of £20 per week to Universal Credit.

Against this background, the local WICAS have launched a campaign reminding people in the Western Isles that free, confidential and impartial advice is available for anyone who needs it.

WICAS Operations Manager Lynda MacLean said: “The end of furlough, an increase in energy bills and the £20 cut to Universal Credit are all about to happen over the next few weeks.

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"Any one of these would be a challenge to low-income families, but all of them happening together is going to be a perfect storm that will hit really hard. We also face a particular challenge in the islands due to the additional cost of heating homes and the high level of fuel poverty in our area”

She added: “Another issue that will disproportionately affect the Islands more than urban areas is the Scottish Government’s decision to remove oil boilers from the Warmer Scotland Scheme nationally.

"This was done with no consultation or engagement with stakeholders and as a consequence of the partnership arrangement between the SNP government and the Greens.”

“In the past couple of weeks, management and staff at WICAS have met with both our MP and MSP, who have assured us that they will make representations on behalf of our clients to both parliaments, and we are grateful to them for taking the time to do so”

She said that for those “facing tough financial choices in the coming weeks” advice was always on hand,” said Ms MacLean.

"Our team of advisers are here to help anyone who is in financial difficulty. Remember our advice is always free, confidential and impartial.”

In August 2021 there were 1,530 people on Universal Credit in Na h-Eileanan an Iar – 9.6% of the working-age population of the constituency (those aged 16-65).

In July, 632 people on Universal Credit in Na h-Eileanan an Iar were in employment, 41.3% of the total number in receipt of the credit in the constituency.

MP Angus MacNeil commented: “The meeting with representatives from WICAS was extremely helpful in identifying the real daily impact that this cut will have on people who are already struggling financially.

"It is not right that so many people are kept on the edge of financial stress due to warped Tory money ideology. The physical, mental and social well-being of too many people is impacted by the UK Government's policy of keeping people in poverty.

“The whole WICAS team work extremely hard to provide key support and advice to those most in need. They have also helped to bring in an incredible total of at least £870,000 to the Western Isles economy in the last year, a figure with a likely high multiplier effect.”